“Seasons of the Year” – a Gala Concert by She’arim, with the support of the Ministry of Immigration and Absorption and the Center for Absorption of Immigrant and Returning Resident Artists
Bet Israel, Netanya, December 28, 2016
Report by Marsha Stein
After two weeks during which we in Israel really understood the concept of seasons as it rained, then poured, flooded, then rained some more, what could be more delightful than a non-rainy evening with Chanukah lights and seventeen artists and one charming host? With a title such as “Seasons of the Year,” of course, the opening selection on the program was Vivaldi’s classic, “The Four Seasons,” which, if I had to choose, would be my favorite piece of music. Those of us devotees of She’arim’s Monday noontime concerts at the She’arim hall on Kikar HaAtzmaut were treated to a preview when we heard “Winter,” the first movement, just a couple of days earlier. But the flautist, Michael Litvin, produces such beautiful sounds on his instrument, that it was a delight to hear it and the three other movements once again. Liora Altschuler, Elizabeth Kutsovsky, Anna Doulov on violin; Svetlana Litvin on viola; Alexander Doulov on cello and Alexander Osipenko on contrabass made up the string orchestra that so invoked the beauty of all the seasons of the year.
And if my favorite piece of music were not enough to bring me to this concert, one of my favorite performers in Israel was on stage again with his charming wife accompanying him. Teddy Shushankov is described as Israel’s foremost domra player and one of the very best in the world. Having never seen or heard a domra before we began living in Israel, it has become one of my favorite instruments…that along with the harpsicord, both somewhat rare and even more rarely performed in concerts. The domra is a three-stringed instrument with a “plucky, plinky” sound (somewhat reminiscent, in my untrained mind, of the harpsicord’s tone). Through Shushankov’s artistry, the domra is able to produce an amazing range of music. Eva Fertelmeister accompanies her husband with perfection, making it clear that they are in sync in music and in life. They performed “Birds Chirping” by Jean Francois Dandrieu, Romansa and Waltz from “The Blizzard” by Georgy V. Svidirov; “Autumn Rain,” a modern piece by a still living and local composer Joseph Tamarin, and “Autumn Dream”, a waltz by Archibald Joyce.
After intermission, Rabbi Birnbaum lit the candles for the fifth night of Chanukah and again credited Brian Nathan for polishing the brass on our large Chanukiah so it shone as brightly as the lights for the holiday. The audience joined Michael Gaysinksky in a few songs, including Maoz Tsur, follwed by Gaysinsky’s singing of the well-known Hebrew song, “Erev Shel Shoshanim,” “evening of roses” which, we were told, often accompanies brides to the altar. Gaysinsky next sang “Papirosn“, in Yiddish.
“Spring has Arrived,” which Ilona Toivis sang to us, is a song by Isaac Dunayevsky. Next she took us “Over the Rainbow”, to the music of Harold Arlen. The Lerner and Loewe “I Could Have Danced All Night,” a favorite of the Russian opera singers we have heard, was next on the program.
Gaysinsky next sang in Russian, a folk song translated as “I’m Going Out,” about a naughty boy. Toivis joined him to sing another Russian folk song translated as “The Wind Ruffles Her Dress,” exemplified by the very ruffled skirt of Ilona’s evening gown. The duo sang to each other Sammy Cahn’s (lyrics) and Nicholas Brodzsky’s (music) “Be My Love” and ended the evening with “To Life” from Jerry Bok’s “Fiddler on the Roof.” The singers were accompanied alternately by Irina Rozhneva, Alla Danzig, and Nadia Fridkovsky on piano. The ever affable Aiton Birnbaum, sporting a fine black fedora, emceed the evening, sharing with us tidbits and historical facts about the music and the musicians and the meaning of songs sung in Russian that most of the audience would not have understood. But music is a universal language and brings us together weekly with our Russian-Israeli neighbors and periodically for these festive evenings that help us to forget the rest of the world for a few hours.